COEUR d'ALENE - The Kootenai County Elections Department is looking at a long night.
"Or a short morning," said Pat Raffee, chief deputy clerk, on Monday.
To avoid impacting today's election outcome, the Elections Department won't start counting absentee ballots until polls close at 8 p.m. today, the county Clerk's Office announced on Monday.
On top of that, it's hard to predict when votes cast at the polls will be delivered to the Elections Office for counting tonight, Raffee said.
"If we have a high turnout, it will take a long time for them to balance the poll books before they deliver them to us," Raffee said.
That said, county staff doesn't "have any idea" when all the votes will be counted, Raffee said.
It's possible the final results won't be in until after midnight, she said.
"Absolutely," she said. "We're planning on going all night, until dawn."
Roughly 18,000 absentee votes had been submitted to the county by Monday, Raffee said.
A directive sent out by Secretary of State Ben Ysura instructs county clerks not to start tabulating ballots until election day.
The directive, sent out in May, also states that results must not be released "until the polls are closed throughout the state."
The county could legally start counting absentee ballots this morning, Raffee acknowledged.
But there are security concerns over running ballots through the machines while the polls are still open, she said.
"We couldn't control who stays, who leaves, who knows, who talks about the results," Raffee said. "That could potentially influence people."
The Elections Department will post updated results all night long as the counting continues, Raffee stated.
Folks can follow the updates at: www.kcgov.us/elections/results/#. The results will be unofficial until the canvass with the county commissioners on Nov. 15.
Elections Supervisor Carrie Phillips couldn't be reached on Monday for comment.
Spokane County has already started counting and running final processing of its ballots, said Elections Manager Mike McLaughlin on Monday.
Results should be available at about 8:20 p.m. today, he said.
"Everyone wants results by 8 o'clock," he said.
That's results for the overall election, not just absentee.
To be fair, it's not that Spokane operates at supersonic speed. All Washington votingis done by mail, McLaughlin explained, so Spokane had already received 140,000 ballots by Monday, with staff counting all day on Monday and today.
"We only have one release (of results)," McLaughlin said.
Polls in Kootenai County will be open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Those tabulating the ballots tonight will not be allowed to make or receive phone calls, Raffee said.
"We don't want security to be compromised," she said.